Game of Thrones is over, and there’s no question Season 8 was…special. So special, in fact, that there was a petition for it to be remade with new writers that garnered over 1.5 million signatures. The thing is, while we were certainly here to meme about the elephants, and express our bemusement in all other areas, the events that unfolded weren’t all that surprising to us. We have developed an expertise in recognizing how the showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) write their “shocks”, and Arya stabbing the Night’s King? Dany becoming the villain? Nothing new here.
In fact, some of the most truly special, as in “I just need 20 good men” special, moments happened outside of this season.
So being the snobby critics, we decided to compile a top 15 list. Because top 10 simply wouldn’t do. Also there are 25 honorable mentions that follow.
As a warning, you may want to acquaint yourselves with our Book Snob Glossary…these characters are just oh-so-unique at times, that we can’t think of tarnishing them with George R.R. Martin’s character associations.
15. Fireballs at Jojen corpse (4×10 The Children)
As a confession: when we first decided to construct this list, we wanted a good mix from the seasons—at least 3 onward. Yet the extra-specialness inherent in seasons 5-8 made things like “chaos is a laddah” feel downright quality.
There is, however, one notable exception to the rule, and it comes in the closing episode for Season 4. Granted, that was the episode that included
Jaime Larry shoving the White Book aside so he could have sex with Cersei Carol, not to mention the infamous Tysha-drop. Still, there is one moment that is just so jarring it happens to also be the moment Kylie points to as when she became a true book snob.
We speak, of course, of the god-awful sequence where Bran reached the cave. Say goodbye to any hopes of intriguing mysticism or foreboding; instead, say hello to spooky skeletons straight out of Jason and the Argonauts, who were greeted with napalm flung by a random child actor who looked like she wandered straight out of a showing of Les Miserables where she played Cosette.
What was this? What genre even was this? And call us terrible people, but it is actually impossible not to laugh at this moment:
It’s not made better by the fact that the scene ends with Bran meeting some old dude who seems to just be leaning against tree branches, talking about “1,000 eyes and one” with his two very functional eyes. Now that’s how to cultivate interest in the future King of Westeros’s storyline before benching him for a year!
14. Happy Hobbits, they’re all dead now (6×07 The Broken Man)
Somewhere in the riverlands, there is a magical place. Here, it is always verdant summer and hobbits attend to their wholesome, holy tasks under the gentle guidance of Septon Ray. (Yes, his real name. Septon Chase was tied up that day.) He’s not sure about the basic precepts of his faith, but he’s still willing to help Sandor Clegane by giving him a construction job.
Things go great until some thugs come up and demand food or provisions. Ray offers them dinner, but doesn’t give them anything else since those hobbits need their elevensies. Sandor tries to tell him that the jerks will come back, but Ray is just a good ol’ holy man. Golden rule, right?
Then one day Sandor goes for a pee break, only to return to a field of dead bodies.
Life sucks, we guess?
Honestly, this exercise in nihilism isn’t worthy of much comment beyond of hilarious it somehow is. Maybe it’s Ian McShane total contempt for his nothing of a role, or the fact that the reveal of Sandor’s return after a two season break was deemed worthy of a cold open, or how obvious it was that these people were all going to die horribly from the second we saw them. Not to mention that it resulted in an arc for Sandor that seemed to amount to; “Were you feeling hopeful there for a hot second? Fooled you!” And it sent him off on his ultra-meaningful path, via fire-reading and fighting zombies, towards his true destiny—fighting his brother.
What a great character arc!
13. No one is knitting socks for the army (7×01 Dragonstone)
Never have two small-time internet commentators gotten this much traction from one throw-away line.
Lyanna Mormont is the bestest littlest feminist in all the North. You can tell because she spends all her time forcefully expressing her opinion about how dumb other women and various feminine-coded things are. Sansa was probably complicit in her abuse, no one should care that Jon is a bastard (even if Sansa is right there), and Lyanna is too badass to ever, ever “knit by the fire” while others, dudes we presume, are fighting for her.
Which is fine for her, we guess, in this society where being a Lord is also being a military commander—but the problem is that no one seems willing to stoop the the humiliation of having to knit, despite the fact that it’s the only way that this army about to fight a war in the middle of winter has of getting nice warm socks. All the girls are learning to fight, as per King Jon’s orders, and even speed needleworker Sansa is too busy being the only person here who cares about logistics and remembers things like food.
It’s possible that, after all those co-ed archery classes, the kids went inside to knit some socks, or maybe even some hats. We hope so, for all those poor northern soldiers’ sakes. And their feetsies.
12. “I am the gift” (5×07 The Gift)
Tyrion has escaped Carol’s Landing, signed on to Team Dany (still “Deadpan” at this point), and made his way to Meereen. Improving the morale of sex slaves and evading cock merchants along the way. He’s here and Deadpan is right outside, but, oh no, Tyrion is chained to this wall. What will our hero do!
Fear not. A random guy with no name will just pop out of the shadows and break those chains for him because… he’s nice? No really, that’s it. We have zero explanation for who this breaker-of-chains is, where he came from, or why he felt it was a great idea at the time. The good news is it allowed Tyrion to walk into the middle of the fighting pits at the perfect moment when Jorah was telling Deadpan he had brought a gift for her. What is the gift you ask?
This is not even getting into the absurdity of the fact that they ended up in Meereen via a slaver who originally wanted to sell Tyrion’s cock to an in-verse “cock merchant”. Instead, Tyrion convinced him to sell him at a Meereenese slaver’s auction, where he wooed his new master by beating up on another master. We’re sure most slavers use that as a criteria.
Of course, all of this happened so that Tyrion could dramatically meet Dany, or as D&D put it:
“Creatively it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen.”
11. Dawninator (6×03 Oathbreaker)
Before King Bran was ready to rule wisely until the end of his days, he was in training to become the Three Eyed Raven—master of dramatic irony and script notes. Part of that meant watching an extra important memory about his father from the time he faced off against Arthur Dayne.
Fans of the books were excited for the “Tower of Joy” sequence, which they were introduced to in a lyrical fever-dream. What was clear in the novels was Ned’s sadness about it, the respect he held for the loyal Kingsguard, and how much the deaths of his companions haunted him.
So naturally when it came time to adapt it, D&D decided to turn it into a really cool and extended fight sequence, where the take-away was supposed to be that Ned had secretly been dishonorable for…winning the fight to the death when Howland Reed managed to come up behind Arthur Dayne.
Adding to the sheer ridiculousness, Arthur Dayne and his legendary Sword of the Morning, Dawn, were given some mild focus in the scene. At least, there was a nice close shot of his hilt with a sun emoji on its pommel. Yet for reasons still mysterious to us, Arthur Dayne was given a second sword, which he dual-wielded and spun round and round. Dawn and Dusk?
Is it even worth commenting on the smaller details, like Bran and Max Von Sydow standing around spouting the world’s worst expository dialogue, or how one of Ned’s traveling companions was randomly wearing a Dornish robe of sex appeal? Probably not, but we know Dawninator will keep on spinning in our hearts.
10. Larry racing around with troops in a two week timeframe (7×03 Queen’s Justice)
The first season of Cheryl’s reign (Carol’s evil form) was a bit of a challenge for our girl. She murdered most of the Lords, so she was reduced to asking Randyll “wildling hater” Tarly for help, there were slutty woman enemies in all cardinal directions, and her dumb dad left the family broke.
Good thing she has Larry, though, and the benefit of his experience from the Battle of the Whispering Wood.
Larry is also a master of logistical planning, because when Cheryl gave herself a deadline of two weeks to pay back the Iron Bank of Braavos, he made it work. First, he crossed the whole continent to get to his family seat of Casterly Castle. There, he grabbed all the Lannister dudes with all their provisions, before making another great schlep to Highgarden to take the fortress with less effort than most people expend to penetrate the walls of their children’s daycare centers. After seeing off Olenna and taking all the bars of gold they happened to have laying around there, he rushed back to Cheryl’s Landing, even having the foresight to send the the gold ahead so it can’t be melted in “Loot Train Attack”. All before the two week deadline, we presume? It must be, since Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank was so impressed by Cheryl’s management style that he basically said she was the most awesome queen ever.
It’s true that the show has always been really woolly about the size and shape of Westeros— despite the map in its opening title sequence. Improbable itineraries and head-scratching travel times are nothing new. What makes this special is that there was never any reason why Cheryl had to give herself two weeks. Why not two months? Or six?
9. Dany burns down the Regional Conference of Dothraki (6×04 Book of the Stranger)
Every quarter, all the khals in the central region gather to discuss human resource policy and who gets to be in the Dosh Khaleen Klub. It’s a central part of their culture, apparently.
This time, Daenerys got herself captured by a random khal after Drogon decided he was tired in the middle of the Dothraki Sea and wanted to sleep to feel better. It’s looking pretty bad for her for a while there, but then she remembered the magic words. If she mentions that she was once a khaleesi, they will no longer threaten to rape her, but instead let her come to the regional conference. Hooray, continental breakfast!
Once at the conference, Dany is told by the current members of the Klub that all the khals respect the Dosh Khaleen for their great wisdom. We’re sure this will be evidenced later when they, like, consult them or anything? No? It’s fine.
Dany bonds with the one not catty khaleesi there and brainstorms with the two menz who came to save her to come up with a plan. Step one: insult the khals until they start being mean to her. Step two: make a menacing speech. Step three: walk behind a brazier and push it over. Step zero (?): at some point during the day, break into the meeting hut and soak the ground in kerosene so that the dirt catches fire. Step four: use the fact that you and your hair are apparently fire-proof to stand there with no expression on your face while everyone else runs around in terror. Step five: have your menz bar the door with a tiny twig. Step six: fire bend(?) some fire right into the face of the guy who laughed at all your titles earlier. Step seven: step out of the flames to accept the adulation of all the brown people present.
It’s the kerosene dirt that’s our favourite detail. Why would dirt catch fire like that?
8. Dinner at Horn Faire (6×06 Blood of my Blood)
Game of Thrones has banked on many an awkward family dinner…almost all of them written by Bryan Cogman. But nothing quite takes the cake like Sam’s brief trip home in Season 6, where Gilly—presumed by Sam’s family to be a Molestown sex worker with a vow-breaking baby of Sam’s—was welcomed with open arms by his mother and sister. And not just welcomed, she was given a dress to wear and lovely chambers to stay in. Because Westeros is known for being not particularly class-conscience.
Yet things took an awkward turn at the table, when it slipped out that Gilly was actually a wildling! You see, Randyll’s one defining feature on the show is that he hates wildings, mostly—we presume, as the result of his close and personal friendship with Lord Umber. When he began to flip out about it, the empowered figure of Mama Tarly rose to storm off from the table, declaring that he dishonored himself! You go girl!
Where these forward-thinking gals came from is beyond us, and the whole of it amounted to nothing anyway, since Sam grabbed Gilly and f-cked right off that night. But hey, at least it moved Valyrian steel into Jorah’s hands eventually, because we totally would have been able to tell if he had faced the “Long Night” with only an obsidian sword instead.
7. The Bells (8×05 “The Bells”)
It’s no surprise this one is on the list, right? After all, we just sat through the fresh hell that was Game of Thrones season 8.
What’s interesting about this moment is that it’s not truly the point at which Dany’s rapid 180 character flip was complete—that honor belongs to when Missandei was tastefully fridged to spur action. And character 180s are hardly new territory, even in the same season. Heck, do we need to remind you of the Sansa Stark Construct from Season 6?
But Dany deciding to burn down King’s Landing after hearing the bells of surrender has more than enough to it to earn it a top spot.
First of all, let’s talk those bells: we’ve literally never heard of bells ringing for surrender in King’s Landing before, and in fact had dialogue that expressly told us that’s not why they ring. Secondly, Cersei of all people was the bell-ringer. This is the woman who did not show up to help against the fight with the undead, and suddenly she’s so concerned for everyone’s well-being that she’s got to sound them.
But above all else was that classic D&D false dichotomy: Dany can either accept the surrender with grace, or she can ignore Cersei’s surrender and torch the entire city, including innocent women and children. She is absolutely not allowed to head directly for the Red Keep and burn only it down, which is morally dubious enough after surrender bells sound, because clearly it would have been impossible to do that.
To cap off the ridiculousness of this, it took Jon 40 minutes into the next episode to see any sort of moral imperative in taking out someone like this, which included Arya keenly pointing out that Dany was a killer. Gee thanks!
6. Parkour and the Asshole (6×08 “No One”)
In a season that also brought us the refrigerator-sized Areo Hotah being felled by a single stab of a fruit knife to the back, we were also treated to “I can’t believe it’s not germ theory!” in Braavos—the city of brotherly love.
The Asshole was the random lady in the House of Black and White who hated Arya for no reason that we could ever determine. And she really hated her. Like, the first thing she did when Arya failed in her mission to poison Lady Crane was ask to be able to kill her.
So she disguised herself as a Croatian extra and stabbed Arya repeatedly in the tumtum before knocking her over into the canal. But Arya was mostly unphased by both the stabs and the dirty canal water full of dead fish and poop that flooded into the wounds soon after. She drags herself to Lady Crane, who is able to patch her up, no problem, just like she did for the ex-boyfriend she stabbed.
But just when you thought there would be some positive female interaction on this show (if that’s what that was), the Asshole strikes again. She murders Lady Crane and then chases Arya through the street. Recently having your abdomen ripped open never affects anyone’s ability to parkour, right?
In fairness, after tumbling down her fifth flight of stairs (this time accompanied by oranges), her stitches rip open and she proceeds to stumble around the block with blood dripping. Naturally the onlookers just complain about their cabbages and make no move to help. What a friendly city!
The best part, of course, is that during this intense parkour chase, the Asshole simply tromps around with a grin on her face as if she’s the goddamn Terminator. Somehow the bloody and opiate-addled Arya gets the best of her by stabbing The Asshole in the dark (which was actually seeded, we’ll admit), ending what was clearly the most exciting, and not at all ridiculous, chase sequence on the show.
5. Larry and Bronn sneak into the Water Gardens behind a donkey carrying bananas (5×06 “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”)
The Bro-nns’ entire trip to our favourite principality counts as a special moment in our minds. From the moment Carol was nice enough to reset the snake-in-a-box for Larry to enjoy…we knew.
It was also when we lost hope that “Porne” would be anything like our favourite theatre in the books that means of so much to us—and we just decided to embrace the silliness.
So, Larry and Bronn have just come from a fight on Denizel Dalt’s private beach, where Larry’s prosthetic hand hilariously gave them victory and access to a spare turban and bathrobe set. They then sneak into the Water Gardens, the place where the Prince of Dorne and his family live, right behind a supply train that includes… A donkey carrying bananas. After their horses magically disappear they come across Larry’s daughter making out with her boyfriend. Awkward.
Just as Larry’s convincing her to come with him, the Sand Fakes attack! With their much hyped combat skills. In broad daylight. Where Doran can see them from his balcony. Elsewhere, Ellaria is shocked this plan didn’t work out. Because Ellaria Sand was the instigator of this plan to murder a teenage girl in cold blood. Because D&D hate us personally.
4. Cheryl emerges—the big boom (6×10 “The Winds of Winter”)
Cheryl is clearly the most ~evil~ character on Game of Thrones, except when she’s ringing surrender bells or sobbing about her children. But there was actually a point where we thought of her as a sympathetic, struggling super-mom, unfairly demonized and kept from power.
That’s until she donned a goth drum major outfit, ignored her son in a rather obvious time of need, blew up the Great Sept of Baelor with people like her uncle inside, had Qyburn seek out and murder the Grand Maester, and then capped the day off by wine boarding a septa while monologuing about hedonism.
We are sympathetic to why people might not see this as quite as drastic a heel-turn as say, Dany this season, but even ignoring whether Cheryl as a character is capable of such an act, there is the sheer ridiculous of its execution.
You see, first, Qyburn had to win over Varys’s child spy network with sugar plums from Dorne, who he then utilized to go beneath the sept and plant tiny tealights in a bunch of oozing wildfire. Then, Cheryl ditched her own trial, which the High Sparrow didn’t do anything to prevent, even though she ditched earlier summons by “choosing violence.” Then, a one of the little children decided to lure Lancel underneath the sept with a game of hide-and-seek, so that he could witness said-tealights for maximum audience satisfaction. Margaery Tyrell’s spidey senses almost ruined the jig, since she began urging everyone to get out of the sept, but luckily the High Sparrow’s eagerness to scarify a gay man outweighed any suspicion he might have had for the missing king and queen mother.
Oh and for kicks, there was a Septa Spoonella extraction mission off-screen, because if there’s one person Cheryl needed up-close-and-personal revenge against, it was the nun doing her job rather than the zealot who ordered her arrest in the first place.
3. Sansa Marriage Strike (5×03 “High Sparrow”)
Despite Game of Thrones enjoying many years as a critical darling, to our pure bemusement, one of the worst moments on the show (in our own snobbish estimation) is something a large number of fans and critics hated as well: Sansa being raped by Ramsay.
We’ve devoted a lot of essays to the utter gratuity of it all—the disturbing messaging surrounding how survivors “should” act, that rape/revenge plot-lines are archaic and based on sexist tropes, that given Sansa’s season 4 resolution there’s nothing that character-development-wise required this, and that even the Boltons having a Stark prisoner didn’t wind up affecting the plot.
However, while there’s no denying the absolutely visceral unpleasantness of it happening, what a lot of people might not have remembered is that the context surrounding Sansa being put in that position was completely bonkers.
Season 4 ended with Sansa and Littlefinger leaving the Eyrie, Sansa having just pulled a huge power move on Littlefinger to keep the Vale Lords at bay. She also dyed her hair, supposedly to disguise herself. In Season 5, Littlefinger decides to take her to Winterfell. When she realizes they’re on the road there, he calmly explains that the Boltons hold it now, and Stannis is due to attack it any day. Therefore, the best choice she has is to marry Ramsay Bolton, because one day he’ll be Warden of the North (if Roose stays in power). After all, what better way is there to get revenge on your enemies than marrying them?
This is only made more ridiculous by the fact that there were supposed to be Northern Lords who weren’t that into the Boltons having taken over, and probably weren’t viewing their possession of Winterfell as legitimate. The true-born Stark girl waltzing in and marrying the Bolton heir, on the other hand, sends a bit of a message about how accepted this should be.
There is no way to work through the underpants logic of this. Even if Ramsay was the nicest guy in the world, and Sansa ‘made him hers’, as Littlefinger later suggested, he would have been the Lord of Winterfell, and best case scenario? She’d occasionally be able to interject her own opinion about grain stores. You know…to punk the family that orchestrated the murder of hers. While also birthing them children for even more hereditary rulership of Winterfell.
Also, Sansa was currently suspected of having murdered Joffery, and the Boltons are ostensibly serving the Lannister Crown. So, why did they go along with this even?
Add to that the fact that Stannis was set to attack, so why not wait to see how that plays out? If he won, boy oh boy was that an unnecessary thing to do.
Long may Sansa reign now as Queen in the North, but woe betide whatever husband she ultimately takes; we’re told the outcomes of a Sansa marriage can be catastrophic.
2. Larry forgets to ask where the king is before attempting a coup as the High Grandpa punks the people of King’s Landing with a fake Walk of Shame (6×06 “Blood of my Blood”)
When Larry suggested using force to rescue Marg and Loras from the Faith in “Blood of my Blood” we were, like, “Yeah, that makes total sense. The queen and the heir to the House that’s the Crown’s most important ally are being held prisoner by fanatics and now they want to march the queen naked through the streets for perjury. You should definitely take care of this, Larry. No sarcasm at all.” He even cleverly found a loophole in Tommen’s orders!
But then it happened. Larry leads a small band of Tyrell dudes, complete with Mance the comically incompetent commander. (He made a comical speech!) When we get to the steps of the sept (say that three times fast) we are joined by Olenna carrying a bucket of popcorn. Larry tries to be all intimidating at the High Grandpa, but the truth comes out—there will be no Walk of Shame, even though poor Spoonella was standing there waiting with her bell! The Faith and the Crown have some kind of alliance that is totally different from what was in place before and also different from when Carol gave them total control of the city the season before. Oh, and here’s the king, he’s totally onboard.
Wait. Larry! You’re the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, at least for the next ten minutes. You didn’t check to make sure the king was still in his room before you left? Or notice that all your Kingsguard colleges were off getting new armour? No wonder you were fired.
1. Karen from Poldark makes Frey pies (6×10 “The Winds of Winter”)
Stunning off-screen adventures have certainly been a mainstay of Game of Thrones for the past few years. But the one that takes the cake, even by our rigorous standards, is without of doubt Arya’s savory and sweet pies that she fed to Walder Frey, made up of his own sons.
In some ways, it’s hard to tell whether this was special or not. After all, we didn’t see Arya travel across the Narrow Sea and continent, find and locate two of Walder’s sons, kill them, drag their corpses with her to a kitchen, grind them into meat, potentially transport said meat into the kitchens of the Twins, get a job as a pastry chef and bake pies without a single question of the meat source (there were fingers poking out), and then wear the face of a server (another murder?) to personally bring the pie out to an abandoned Walder Frey so he could eat it before she killed him. It could have all been done in a totally reasonable way, right?
Sorry…we just read that back. Of course the flaky pie crust on the top of it all is that Arya then followed this murder with two weeks where she pretended to be Walder Frey, received news on his behalf, lived with his child bride, and planned the mass murder of the household without any flags raised.
Hats off to subtlety, we suppose.
- Ramsay defeats Stannis’s army with 20 Good Men and night-vision goggles
- The entire political underpinning of the truce meeting in Season 7
- Chaos is a laddah
- Tyrion and Sansa joke about sheep poo and have such a nice marriage
- This is all Cat’s fault for not loving Jon!
- Dragonstone is empty (TWICE)
- The Pornish birthmark on Loras’s butt as PROOF OF PERJURY!
- Stannis’s terrible, horrible, no good very bad day (complete with the stupid candle Brienne ignored)
- Euron crashes the Salt Moot
- Oberyn and Ellaria live in a brothel
- Areo Hotah goes down with one tiny knife to the back—featuring Schyster Maester!
- Marg’s Mean Girl brunch
- Dany makes a speech on Drogon’s back that no one can possible hear.
- Misogyny tour with Floor Map
- Cock Merchants. They exist.
- Batfinger’s “trial” where we are all a bit confused
- Elephants. We really wanted those elephants.
- Skyr and his parade of dink dink wights
- Faullaria rings a bell while Varys hides behind a curtain
- Olenna thinks Carol’s Landing smells like poop
- Tyrion has drunk meetings with Missandei and Grey Worm while they’re trying to work
- Olly nods at Jon after killing his girlfriend—birthing many memes
- A raven improbably but possibly flies from Eastwatch to Dragonstone in a few hours
- Olenna banged her sister’s fiance because she thought Targs were lame
- Arya kills the Night’s King
There you have it, though we can’t help feel like we missed a good…40 potential candidates. Let us know your vote for the most special-est Game of Thrones moment, because the good news is now that the show is over, the memes can prevail.